Hook, line and sinker: CPD officers invite kids to get ‘hooked on fishing’

Cheryl Newland kept a handful of worms in the pocket of her pink jacket, repeatedly replacing the bait on her 9-year-old granddaughter’s fishing hook Wednesday morning.

Newland said she was on “worm duty” at the Columbus Police Department’s second annual Hook a Kid on Fishing clinic.

The crisp morning breeze created a perfect setting Wednesday for nearly 30 Bartholomew County kids and Columbus police officers to fish in the lake in front of the Toyota Material Handling plant in Walesboro.

All equipment, bait and lunch was provided, free of charge.

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“The kids love to fish,” Newland said of her granddaughters. “It’s good for the kids to know that they don’t need to be afraid of the police. The police are there to help them and be with them — it’s important for kids to know that.”

And that’s just the purpose that Columbus Police Sgt. Julie Quesenbery said the department is trying to achieve through the outdoor event.

“The whole point is to build relationships with youth and we get to do that today through fishing,” Quesenbery said. “For some of these kids, it’s their first time ever fishing and a police officer gets to be the one who helps them reel it in.”

Quensenbery said bridging the gap between law enforcement and youth is a priority for Columbus Police Department, which now has five resource officers present in all 18 of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. school buildings.

When a child sees an officer in uniform, Quesenbery said the department wants them to know they’re looking out for their best interest.

“We don’t want to just show up when there’s a problem,” Quesenbery said. “We get to show them today that we want to help you, we want you to be successful and we want to have fun with you.”

Wednesday was 12-year-old Tommy Morrison’s second time attending the annual Hook a Kid on Fishing day, but he said he’s been fishing since he was 3 years old. Just one hour into the event, Morrison had already caught a baby bass, a sunfish and a baby blue gill.

“I never thought I’d be able to fish with a police officer,” Morrison said. “I just get to have fun, enjoy the day and get a little dirty. This day reminds me that I always know someone has my back and they’re not going to let anything happen to me.”

John Velten, a Columbus patrolman, said the day has two goals. He and fellow officers get to teach kids how to fish and also show them that police officers are friendly and always approachable.

Velten took 10-year-old Carter Adler under his wing Wednesday, teaching him how to fish for the first time.

“Fishing is a great way for adults and kids alike to get to know each other and break down some barriers,” Velten said. “I’ve already got four or five names memorized, including Carter.”

Adler said he just wanted to catch a big fish before the day was over.

Ayden Perkins, 11, was at the event to fish with his best friend Lindon Jeffers. He was able to save several of the fish he caught, including three blue gills. This was the first time he said he had finally been to a good fishing spot and could easily catch fish.

“First I get excited when I get a catch then I feel kind of bad because I just yanked a fish out of the water,” Perkins said.

But the biggest catch of the day?

A 2-foot long garden snake, caught by one of Newland’s granddaughters. After the kids took a closer look, the snake was released to meander away as the fishing lessons continued.

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The second annual Columbus Police Department Hook a Kid on Fishing event was sponsored by:

  • Walmart (west)
  • Rural King
  • Circle K
  • Texas Roadhouse
  • Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing
  • Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Columbus
  • Fraternal Order of the Police Lodge No. 89

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Each year, Columbus Police Department invites children ages 9 through 14 to spend a day fishing with several officers in an effort to build positive relationships and have fun.

This year’s event was held at the Columbus Toyota Industrial Equipment plant, 5555 Inwood Drive.